The strategy behind DoorDash's sponsorship of esports tournament, League of Legends Circuit Oceania

Senior manager of consumer marketing for on-demand food delivery player talks through the sponsorship strategy and reasons for growing its esports footprint

DoorDash’s foray in the esports field is part of a sponsorship approach that sees the food delivery brand building presence and authenticity across community platforms its target customer groups are actively engaging in.  

DoorDash has become inaugural naming rights sponsor of the League of Legends Circuit Oceania (LCO), Australia and New Zealand’s largest esports league watched by more than 750,000 viewers in its first year. The 2021 partnership sees the brand integrated into all broadcasts and digital content, connecting the business with esport’s younger fans and participants.  

LCO was founded in 2021 and is organised by ESL Australia and Guinevere Capital. It replaced the former Oceanic Pro League hosted by Riot Games, which ran between 2015 and 2020. The current league has eight teams.    

DoorDash senior manager of consumer marketing for Australia, Michael McCash, told CMO the company’s US business has been upping investing into the online gaming community including partnerships with live streaming platform, Twitch. The ambition is to tap into a younger, tech-savvy cohort of consumers harder to reach through traditional media. He noted such consumers are often the ones running adblockers, consuming content differently, who show strong community orientation and want the most authentic of connection with brands.  

“It’s about being present on the platforms they are on to start to identify opportunities,” he said. “Gaming and on-demand delivery go perfectly together. DoorDash prides itself on its high-level convenience offering for food, groceries and alcohol - perfect for players and spectators that are often engrossed in long gaming sessions.”  

Having stepped up Australian investment 18 months ago, DoorDash this year began investigating ways to connect with younger consumers locally, commencing activities and paid TV executions with Pedestrian TV. Having chalked up strong results with gaming audiences, the decision was made to take that bigger step and invest in LCO.  

“Often in APAC, this space [esports] isn’t as developed or sophisticated in terms of marketing campaigns or working in this space,” McCash continued, making the inaugural LCO sponsorship too good an opportunity to miss.  

As part of the deal, DoorDash will be featured across the DoorDash LCO broadcast in new segments, including the DoorDash #sendit Replays, and Players That Delivered, activating during key moments of the twice-weekly broadcast. DoorDash will also integrate into the LCO’s social media channels, which boasted an audience of over 2 million users over its inaugural season.  

The esports sponsorship is distinctive to DoorDash’s significant sponsorship of the NRL. Announced in March, this deal sees the brand as official on-demand delivery partner with logos appearing in-goal across matching including the State of Origin. The company has also secured naming rights for Touch Football Australia, one of Australia’s fastest growing social sports.  

McCash again pointed to the desire to connect with target audiences in the channels and communities they’re engaged in.  

“We have been purposeful in what make up those typical audiences and how best to authentically connect with them,” he said. “With LCO versus NRL, it’s a very different approach – we are using different messaging, positioning and responding to distinct needs, and we have also led with different partners.  

“The NRL audience have a penchant for different sorts of food and options. We are quickly learning in esports that they use our food and service options quite differently. What they like and order, when they want food delivered and the preferred options are all distinctive. So our creative and tactics as well as channel optimisation are different.”    

In addition, the two games play in very different arenas: NRL is driven by mainstream TV broadcast and big physical stadiums, while LCO requires a more hands-on, digital approach, McCash said.  

To ensure relevance and connection with the esports audience, DoorDash is engaging in social monitoring and two-way conversations to show up in and around relevant moments. For McCash, the impetus is on being valued and respected, building brand credibility and goodwill.  

“We have team members actively part of Twitch channels for LCO, communicating with spectators and game members,” he said. “Our social team is replying via Twitter and in channels where things are being talked about.”    

While agreeing esports “can be a scary place for some brands”, McCash pointed to KitKat’s successful presence in the esports category in Europe through a similar sponsorship with the League of Legends European Championship as a standout example of the pay-off for brands integrating in this space. KitKat confirmed it was expanding its sponsorship in June thanks to its success to date.  

“This space requires a higher-touch approach than traditional media but there’s more immediate response,” McCash said.    

And even with the distinctions between the NRL and LCO sponsorships in terms of audience, McCash said core metrics, desired outcomes and level of risk across both sponsorships is similar. Key ambitions for DoorDash are customer acquisition, retention and providing services consumers want in order to be their preferred food delivery provider.  

“We did weigh up this LCO sponsorship in terms of brand safety and it’s not necessarily riskier than our other work,” he commented. “It’s the same for most sponsorships and no more or less risky than other growth opportunities. It just requires a different approach and level of executive discussion and tactics to show up authentically.”    

Helping DoorDash capitalise on the opportunity is a fast-paced operational way of working, which McCash said “lends itself to us being able to take these opportunities and running with them quickly”. He said adaptability is a skill other brands also have to work towards.    

Test-and-learn principles will be in play as DoorDash engages across Twitch, via video, site takeovers then the stream itself in direct response activities to engage in specific moments.

Other next steps include moving to more of an influencer approach, integrating with players, spectators and members.  

“We are elated to be partnering with DoorDash. They’ve been greatly supportive of our vision for the league and I’m excited to see what we can do together in both the short and long term.” said head of commercial for the DoorDash LCO, Graeme Du Toit. “Convenience is critically important for our audience, and we’re looking forward to leveraging DoorDash to improve the LCO experience for our fans. Hopefully that spills over into DoorDash making their lives more convenient outside of match days too.”  

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